Alaska News Nightly: December 17, 2010

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Alaska Supreme Court Hears Miller Case
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The state’s Supreme Court justices heard arguments on Friday from attorneys for both sides in the case Republican US Senate candidate Joe Miller brought against the state division of elections. Miller wants a strict interpretation of the Alaska statutes regarding write in ballots. State attorneys want summary judgment. New Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell is now the target of the lawsuit. Miller says he’ll keep on fighting the case. He told reporters after the court session that the Justices don’t see his suit as frivolous. The high court justices have taken the case under advisement. A decision could come by Monday.

Search Continues for Missing Teller Man
Ben Matheson, KNOM – Nome
Search and rescue crews are continuing the search for 22-year-old Kenny Lee from Teller. Volunteer teams from Teller and Brevig Mission were out on snowmachine until shortly before midnight last night, and headed out at first light today.

Canada Energy Board OKs Gas Pipeline
Erin Collins, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – Calgary
Canada’s National Energy Board has approved a natural gas pipeline for the MacKenzie Valley. The process has taken a long time, and there are still huge aboriginal land claims and financing questions ahead for Imperial Oil and Trans Canada. And Market conditions have changed since the project was brought up.

Project Will Include Costs for Pipeline and Production Facilities
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
That $16 billion cost estimate for the project is not money needed strictly for construction of a pipeline. Larry Persily, the Federal Coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects, says about half that amount will be used to develop the gas production facilities to have a product to ship in the line. He says there has been exploration of the field, but including the costs of actually drilling for it, he says the project is offering less gas for more money. Persily says the regulatory approval is good news for the proponents of MacKenzie. However, Alaska’s project is not threatened. He says that even if MacKenzie gets full government approval, the Canadians will have to take the same final steps as Alaska’s line – both will need investors and shippers. He says both US and Canadian developers are moving in parallel — doing the same thing.

Questionnaire Goes Out to Potential Jurors in Murder Trial
Maria Dudzak, KRBD – Ketchikan
A request to mail questionnaires to potential jurors in the first degree murder trial of Rachelle Waterman was the subject of status hearing held earlier this week in Ketchikan Superior Court. Waterman is accused of conspiring to kill her mother with Craig resident Brian Radel and Klawock resident Jason Arrant. Both men plead guilty in 2004 to the first degree murder of 48-year-old Laurie Waterman. Rachelle Waterman’s first trial was held in Juneau and ended in a hung jury.

Former Sitka Credit Union CFO Sentenced
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
A former credit union CFO in Sitka will serve two years in prison for embezzlement. Vicki Weidenhof was convicted earlier this year for skimming over $187,000 in operational money from the ALPS Federal Credit Union in Sitka. US District Court Judge John Sedwick handed down the sentence Friday morning.

Anchorage High School to Introduce New Sex Ed Elective
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Next month Anchorage’s East High School will offer a newly approved elective for Juniors and Seniors: Healthy Relationships, Sexual Education. The Anchorage School Board approved the course earlier this month.

Kodiak High School Adding Alutiiq Language Class
Jacob Resnick, KMXT – Kodiak
Kodiak High School is adding an Alutiiq language class next month. The initiative follows a decade’s worth of groundwork as well as interest expressed by a group of students.

Fast Ferries Canceling Because of Bad Weather
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Alaska’s fast ferries are canceling sailings due to rough winter weather. The Juneau-based Fairweather skipped several runs to Haines, Skagway and Sitka last week, including Friday. And the Cordova-based Chenega dropped a trip to Whittier. Saturday sailings for both ships have also been cancelled. Ferry chief Jim Beedle says high winds and waves give the high-speed catamarans a rough ride.

Conservation Organization Working to Clean Up AK Beaches
Adam Kane, KDLG – Dillingham
Ocean currents in the Pacific are responsible for depositing tons of debris from Asia, America and elsewhere on Alaska’s shores each year. One Alaskan conservation organization is working to remove that debris, to restore the beaches to their natural condition. Since 2003, the MCA Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Marine Conservation Alliance, has been working to tackle the problem of marine debris in Alaska by coordinating cleanup activities around the state. Anne Vanderhoeven is the Board President for the Foundation. She says 2010 was a great year for the foundations cleanup efforts.

Fairbanks Halfway House Seeks Another State Contract
Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks
A company that operates a halfway house outside Fairbanks is seeking another state contract to expand operations.